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SpaceX seeks expansion at the Port of Los Angeles

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Will the company build its Mars rockets in LA?

Aerial view of Port of LA
The proposed facility would be constructed on Terminal Island, close to the Japanese Fishing Village Memorial.
Xavier Marchant | Shutterstock

A fixture in Hawthorne for the past decade, aerospace manufacturer SpaceX is looking to widen its operations within the city of Los Angeles just as the company ramps up efforts to craft rockets capable of reaching Mars.

Plans approved by the Board of Harbor Commissioners last week suggest the company’s plans could include a new manufacturing facility at the Port of LA.

SpaceX already leases space at the port, which it uses when collecting vehicles and equipment returning from space. But plans submitted by a limited liability corporation named WW Marine Composites call for a new production center on Terminal Island that would be used for “development and manufacture” of “specialized transportation vessels,” as well as ongoing SpaceX equipment recovery.

It’s not clear whether the new facility would be operated by SpaceX; company spokesperson Eva Behrend would only confirm that SpaceX is “in preliminary discussions with the Port of LA about the potential of leasing additional land for operations.”

The environmental review of the project submitted to the Harbor Commission invites plenty of speculation about what, exactly, might be manufactured at the new facility. According to plans, the transportation vessels produced there would be created in a new 203,450-square-foot structure with nearby 12,000-gallon tanks for storage of argon, helium, nitrogen, and oxygen.

The vessels would also be “too large for transportation by road.” Instead, they would be offloaded onto a supply barge, making the waterfront location of the facility key to its viability.

Rumors are already abounding that the facility may be used to manufacture the company’s proposed Big Falcon Rockets, which founder and CEO Elon Musk describes as “interplanetary” ships that could reach Mars.

The commission will still need to authorize a 10-year lease for the project to move forward, but its impact on the Harbor area could be significant.

Located directly across a shipping channel from the soon-to-be-renovated Ports O’ Call Village, it would be a visible landmark within the busy port. Plans indicate it would also bring an expected 750 new jobs to the area.

Diagram of Terminal Island facility
A diagram of the proposed project.
Los Angeles Harbor Department

Set on an 18-acre parcel amid a group of historic port buildings (which would be preserved), the project would be constructed in two phases, with construction lasting between 16 and 18 months.

WW Marine Composites has not returned a message seeking more information.